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South Florida Bulls men's basketball keeps it close before faltering late in loss to No. 1 Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — USF conquered the snow. It did not have as much success against top-ranked Pittsburgh.

Wednesday's game at the Petersen Events Center tipped off 25 minutes late because USF's team bus got stuck in a rush-hour snow squall. The delay seemed to have a greater effect on Pitt, which led by just four at halftime.

However, the Bulls melted in the second half and the Panthers pulled away for a 75-62 victory.

"Man, we could've had this one," said freshman forward Gus Gilchrist, who scored a season-high 22. "We played them tough, beyond anybody's expectations."

USF (6-10, 1-3 Big East) shot 48 percent, including 7-of-14 from 3-point range.

"If you would have told me coming in that we'd shoot (that well), I would have said, 'I'll take it,' " coach Stan Heath said. "I just wouldn't have expected us to lose by 13."

Pitt (16-0, 4-0) was too tough on the boards and too dead-eye from long range. The Panthers had a 37-23 rebounding advantage, powered by a game-high 18 from 6-foot-7, 265-pound forward DeJuan Blair, and scored 21 second-chance points. They made 10 of 18 3-pointers.

"They taught us a lesson on the glass," Heath said. "Blair was too much for us. … You get a defensive stop and think you're in good shape, and he gets the rebound."

USF's team bus left the downtown Marriott about two hours before the scheduled tipoff. From there, the ride to the arena usually takes about 15 minutes. But 90 minutes later, the Bulls were snowbound and trapped in traffic. It took a police escort to pry the bus out of the jam.

"Maybe it was a good thing, being stuck like that," said guard Dominique Jones, who scored 22. "Everybody was listening to music, anxious to get here. That really surprised me; everybody on the team was anxious to play. That's a good sign for us."

Gilchrist, coming off a 16-point game against DePaul, was hot again off the bench. He scored 12 of USF's first 18, including a 3 that tied the score at 18.

Pitt blew first-half leads of nine and seven. It was tied at 30 with 4:40 left in the half, creating a nervous stir on the Pitt bench.

"Their whole body language changed," Gilchrist said. "We had them on the ropes; we just couldn't knock them out."

USF had two chances to go up before halftime but was outworked under the basket by the quicker, more physical Panthers.

"Teams are going to play us tough," said Pitt guard Levance Fields, who had 11 points. "Being No. 1, everybody expects us to win by 20, 30. But in this conference, it's not like that."

It was the third time USF had played a top-ranked men's team (at North Carolina in 1981 and at Cincinnati in 2000, both losses).

No. 1 Pitt 75

USF 62

South Florida Bulls men's basketball keeps it close before faltering late in loss to No. 1 Pittsburgh 01/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 10:37pm]
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